Sugar. Our best friend or worst enemy. Why do we love it so much? Despite the very clear indications that sugar is extremely damaging to our health, we continue to devour it by the spoonful. Not literally, of course (unless you have a particularly injurious addiction) but when you add it all up there probably won’t be too much difference. It just makes everything taste so lovely, doesn’t it?
But the fact you’re reading this suggests you want to do something about reducing your sugar intake – as you absolutely should.
An uncontrollable sweet tooth does more than just damage your teeth. In many cases it can significantly increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and possibly even cancer.
So how do you solve a problem that hasn’t even become a problem yet? Simple. Take preventative care of your personal health.
Here are 5 approaches we recommend for helping to reduce added sugar intake in your diet. We hope some of them work for you 🙂
One: Inspect Food Labels Closely
(photo credit: FlickrCC Mike Mozart)
Sugar is a master of discretion. It hides in places we don’t expect and often never even realise. Tomato ketchup, salad dressings and soups, for instance, are often packed with added sugar but this escapes our notice because these products do not taste sweet. Most worryingly, food labels rarely distinguish between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar.
However, you can get an idea of how much sugar is in a product by reading the ingredients list. By law, ingredients are listed on food labels in descending order of quantity, so if there lots of sugary sounding additives near the top, e.g. corn syrup, fructose, maltose, dextrose, agave or corn syrup, it’s probably worth thinking twice before you drop it into your basket.
Two: Pair Carbs and Protein
We all love carbs-packed foods like bread, pasta and chips but eating too much at once causes our blood sugar levels to rise and fall rapidly, leaving us hungry again not long afterward. You can minimise this rapid rise and fall by pairing carbs with foods that are high in protein, healthy fats and fibre. This will also keep you feeling full for longer.
For example, at breakfast you could try having eggs on toast rather than butter, jams or marmalades. At lunch, pairing a potato or pasta salad with a slice of chicken breast or cheese will create a well-balanced dish. And throwing avocados, nuts, seeds and thinner, healthier oils like walnut or coconut oil will also make a difference.
Three: Use Natural Sweeteners Instead
It’s a lot easier than you might think to find foods that do not contain any artificial sugars. They are usually labelled ‘unsweetened’ or ‘no added sugar’ and typically include products like almond milk, soy milk, nut butters (butters made with only nuts and salt), Greek yoghurt, oatmeal and canned fruit (kept in juice, not syrup).
By switching to these unsweetened versions of common products you’d slash a huge amount of sugar from your diet. But if you really can’t go without then consider adding natural sweeteners to your food instead. Vanilla extract, organic honey or – best of all – fresh fruit, which provide some nutrients and antioxidants, are great substitutes for their pre-sweetened alternatives.
Four: Spice Up Your Life
Love curries? Or just Asian food in general? Then why not use this opportunity to explore your culinary abilities?
If you enjoy food with strong flavours, you could just as easily use spices rather than sugar to enhance your evening meals. Ginger, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg are great examples of spices that add so much flavour to a dish, you might not even realise it contains no sugar. You don’t have to go over the top – spices are stronger in flavour than sugar – so just a little will do.
IQuitSugar.com provides some delicious, unique, sugar-free curry recipes that anyone can accomplish at home.
Five: Ditch Cereal for Porridge
We all crave our favourite cereal first thing in the morning, so suddenly replacing it with a plainer, sugarless alternative such as porridge may come as something of a shock to the system. However, porridge doesn’t have to be boring.
While many of us will be used to eating porridge topped with honey or golden syrup, others might have already discovered the equal pleasures derived from adding some toasted coconut flakes, toasted chopped nuts and a large spoonful of raisins or sultanas. This is obviously a much healthier alternative and definitely worth trying out!
The Final Word
However you choose to begin your reduced sugar intake regime, bear in mind that ‘going cold turkey’ is neither a practical nor realistic approach. The key is cutting back gradually. Try adding half a teaspoon less of sugar to your coffee every week, for instance (or every month if necessary!) Initially limiting yourself to just one or two days a week when you can enjoy those irresistible high-sugar snacks is also pretty reasonable. Just knowing that you have a few treats to look forward to will help you resist temptation in moments of weakness on other days!
By following these tips and remaining disciplined, you’ll be doing your body a hell of a favour. Less sugar intake and a healthier diet leads to healthier teeth, a healthier heart and slimmer figure!